The brackets are finalized, and some have been already destroyed, as teams roll on in this year’s “Big Dance.” Amid all of the March Madness excitement, the Associated Press released a report last week with statistics from the University of Central Florida, stating that the women of the NCAA college basketball tournament are still graduating with much higher success rates.
The annual study, conducted by the University’s “Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport” brings awareness to this increasingly controversial subject every year around the tournament time, and shows that the disparity between male and female athletes is still great, despite major improvements in grades and graduation rates.
In addition to the academic results for the teams in both basketball brackets, the report presents the alarming gap between African-American student-athletes and their white counterparts. The study was conducted using two metrics enforced by the NCAA: the APR, which is the Academic Progress Rate that tracks the academic achievement of teams for each academic term, and the GSR, also known as the Graduation Success Rate. Both of these tools were instituted by the NCAA in the mid-2000’s in order to create an accountability system for players, coaches, and universities regarded their success rate with student-athletes.
According to the TIDES report, as of the 2012 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tournament, current statistics demonstrate that female basketball players are continuously showing that academics are important to them. This year they have a graduation rate of 89 percent, in comparison to 67 percent for their male athlete counterparts. Only three teams in the women’s field scored below a 925 on the APR scale.
In addition to this, the disparity gap between African-American female athletes and their white teammates has stayed in the single digits this year, at 8 percent. On the other hand, the gap is at a startling 28 percent for the African-American males versus their white peers.
Nobody knows exactly why the male athletes are doing more poorly in the classroom than the ladies, and situations vary for every individual athlete and institution. However, these discrepancies may attest to the fact that male college basketball players may be more focused on a professional career in the NBA than their academic career.
In contrast, women’s basketball players are often more aware that they have far fewer opportunities in the professional sports arena, and probably prepare better for life after college basketball. It seems as though they get better grades because, frankly, they don’t really have a choice.
In a recent New York Times opinion piece by Gary Gutting entitled, “The Myth of the Student-Athlete,” he concludes that even a 2011 NCAA survey states that some of these student-athletes place more of an emphasis on their sports.
“Football and men’s basketball players (who are my primary focus here) identify themselves more strongly as athletes than as students, gave more weight in choosing their college to athletics than to academics, and, at least in season, spend more time on athletics than on their studies (and a large majority say they spend as much or more time on sports during the off-season),” wrote Gutting.
NCAA reports released have found that just 1.2 percent of college players will be drafted by a professional team in the NBA. That’s fewer than 50 NCAA male college basketball students nation-wide.
Although coaches constantly vocalize the importance of academics on the team, one can look at the University of Connecticut’s success as an example of the pitfalls that some team’s face. UConn’s men’s team won last year’s national championship, but this year they are contesting a spot in the 2013 NCAA tournament because their grades have fallen way too low.
On the more positive end of the spectrum, the NCAA is still working towards better academic reports and graduation success rates from their universities, and recognizing their efforts for it. Twenty-two women’s teams in this year’s tournament have a 100 percent graduation rate. A few of these schools include Vanderbilt, St. John’s, and Notre Dame. On the men’s side, Duke and BYU also have 100 percent graduation rates.
As the NCAA pushes for tougher academic standards, students will struggle to strike a balance between the courts and in the classroom. If not, we could be missing out on some fan favorites during March Madness in the upcoming years.